Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 10th August 2022

฿36 to one US Dollar
฿43 to one Pound Sterling
฿36 to one Euro
฿25 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Ned

Working in Ireland

Monthly Earnings 145,000 baht (before tax)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

That is from a full time government school. I get two months off in summer (July and August), two weeks at Christmas, one week at Halloween and two weeks at Easter. My working hours are 08.40 to 15.00.

My salary works out at 145,000 baht before tax, and I get about 115,000 baht once the government is done with me. A similar take home pay to what I got in Thailand actually. I worked as a teacher in Thailand for four years before returning home.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Absolute peanuts.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I rent a two-bedroom house in a nice area with a nice garden for about 48,000 baht (an alarmingly huge chuck of my salary). I paid 9,000 for a similar house in Thailand.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

You ready for this?? In my first year back my annual car insurance cost is 105,000 baht! My annual car tax is 10,000 baht. Finding gas at less that 70 baht per litre here is a cause for great celebration.

Utility bills

Electricity - 4,000
Wifi - 1,090
Phone - 700

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I work hard to keep our weekly food shop to under 4,000 baht so about 12,000. A nice meal at an Asian restaurant is a nice treat at 2,000 baht a pop, lets put another 8,000 in for that.

Nightlife and drinking

Not much room for that. A six pack for home will cost you 500 baht.

Books, computers

Library here is fantastic so no big costs here.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I don't want for much but I am saving nothing either.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

In Ireland? Absolutely nothing. I miss Thailand!

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I'm surviving at the minute so I guess my salary? To properly live though? Pop another 60,000 on top please.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ned for an interesting combination of 'cost of living' and 'great escape'. The price of certain things really does sound mental compared to Thailand. Nowonder you miss the old place at times. 48,000 baht a month for rent? Wow! When I have nothing better to do and purely out of idle interest, I sometimes go on the popular UK property sites like Rightmove and Gumtree to see what the situation is and I'm just flabbergasted. Even a bedsit in a fairly rundown area of a city will cost you £700 a month and renting a room in someone's house doesn't cost much less. It's a huge chunk of salry to just fritter away.  


Gavin

Working in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 55,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I've worked at my particular school for five years and over time my teaching load has decreased and I've moved into other areas like teacher recruitment and curriculum development. Actually, because we now have 25-30 foreign teachers, the teacher recruitment has become almost the biggest part of my daily job. I teach about 10 hours a week compared to 20 in the past but my salary has increased thanks to the extra responsibilities.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to save anything from 5,000 to 20,000 a month. 20K is only doable if I don't do any travelling or have any large purchases though.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a 3-bedroom house with my Thai partner and that costs 12,000 baht a month to rent. I pay all of that amount and my partner chips in with the utility bills. That's kind of the arrangement we've always had. She only earns around 20K a month so it feels unfair to make her split the rent down the middle. It's a nice place, down a quiet soi on a well-maintained and secure housing complex. The neighbors are friendly and we have a small front and back garden.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I have a motorcycle I use to go the 5 kilometres to work and back so with the odd taxi fare at the weekend and a few skytrain fares, this expense probably comes to around 2,000 a month.

Utility bills

As I said, my partner takes care of this expense. I don't think it ever comes to more than about 3,000 baht for electricity and water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Both my partner and I pretty much stick to Thai food all the time. She doesn't like Western fast food and I fell out of love with it a long time ago. I'll sometimes splurge on a Chinese or Indian meal and have it delivered but otherwise, it's Thai food all the way, either street food or low-end places. I'd say if you factor in supermarket shopping, 7-11 purchases etc, this must be 12,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

Yes, we like a night out. Usually we'll catch the BTS into Bangkok and have a few drinks at somewhere like Khao San Road. If you do this just once a week, you can blow hole in 12,000 baht a month easily.

Books, computers

I'm not much of a reader or gamer. I do like my Netflix series (around 450 baht a month) so I'll normally fall asleep in the armchair in front of the box if we don't go out drinking. A day's work always tires me out.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's OK, nothing special. We have a joint income of around 75,000 and when you're a couple that likes their weekends away and enjoy the Bangkok pubs, you can burn through 75K very easily. If I'm honest, another 25K would be very nice

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Fruit from the local market as opposed to paying supermarket prices. I don't go in the high-end supermarkets anymore. The price of goods in those places is getting crazy.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Let me say a few words from a recruiter's standpoint. The days of the 30K a month teacher are over, and if they aren't over they soon will be. You can't recruit a native English speaker for that sort of salary, period, well, only if they are truly desperate and have so many skeletons in the closet, you can barely close the door. You can't even get quality Europeans (non-NES) or Filipinos to work for a 30K salary these days either. The non-NES teachers know they are often better at teaching English than natives and as for the Filipinos, they aren't running away for a better life in Thailand like they were in the past. Thailand just isn't the TEFL attraction it once was.

But to answer the question, I would say at least 50,000 in Bangkok for a single teacher but a lot more than that if you've an eye on the future.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Gav, always interesting to hear the thoughts of someone on the teacher recruitment front line. A lot of teachers will tell you that Thailand TEFL salaries haven't increased in the last twenty years and while I don't think that's entirely true (because there are more 40-75K salaries around nowadays), when I recruited teachers in the late 90's, we were certainly offering 30K+. And 30K went a hell of a lot further in those days because there was so little to spend your money on, You put a roof over your head, ate mainly Thai food because you didn't have the selection of Western eateries and you had the occasional weekend in Pattaya or Hua Hin because there were no low-cost airlines back then. Were they the good old days I wonder? 


Richie

Working in Canada

Monthly Earnings 120,000 (after pension reductions, taxes, health insurance)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

Full-time elementary school teacher. I also trade stocks and on average probably make an extra 10,000 a month but lately more losses than profits. I pay 20,000 a month for my teachers pension which my school board matches (40,000 total).

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save 50,000 a month split into two retirement funds. This is separate from my work pension.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

My rent is subsidized by my school board and it comes to 14,000 a month for a two-bedroom house.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

No expenses, I walk to work. On school holidays I travel and I spend around 50, 000 for flights, hotels etc. I do this three times a year.

Utility bills

I pay for internet and satellite tv 8,000 a month. My school board covers electricity, water etc.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend about 15,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

None

Books, computers

Probably about 2,000 a month on kindle books.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I live in a remote community and there is not much to do in regards to nightlife. I enjoy going fishing, hunting and have use of a well-equipped gym at my school. I receive tax rebates from the government to offset the higher cost of living.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

I am able to save a lot of money for retirement and rent is very low.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I lived in South Korea 15 years ago and was making around 95,000 a month. The pension was poor and I wasn’t saving much. I decided to return to Canada and teach here. While remote living is not for everyone, it is an easy way to save money.

I have 12 weeks off per year and still travel to Asia in July and August. The teacher pension plan in Canada is top notch however, you need to be fully certified to work in a school board. In 8 years (55) I will be able to fully retire with around a 90,000/ month pension. I will also have my personal investments for extra spending money. For someone newly certified in teaching, northern Canada is a great place to pay off debts and walk right into a full-time job. You may spend 2-3 years supply teaching in a large city waiting for a position to open up.

I am glad I left Asia when I did as it increased my earning and saving potential and I feel more valued as an educator. I still love to visit Asia and will retire there but I have no intention of working there again.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Richie. I think this is our very first cost of living survey from Canada but you've also taught in Asia of course. It sounds like you have a great life in a remote part of Canada. It probably wouldn't be for everyone but great if you're into hunting and fishing and the outdoor life.

On a side-note, I've let this survey slide but it was touch and go because it has little to do with teaching in Thailand. We'd love to get some cost of living in Thailand surveys if anyone has time.  


Cedric

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 65,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I've been at the same large Thai secondary school for six years now and risen through the ranks you might say. Back in 2017, I started here on around 30,000 baht a month but with the odd annual bonus here and there, I now pull in 65K. There is no opportunity to earn extra income though but to be fair, I don't go looking for it either.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Probably around 15,000 a month. I only say that because last year I saved 180,000 baht so 15K is what it averages out at. 180,000? It's not a great deal to show for a long, hard twelve months work is it? It doesn't feel like it to me.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I was always brought up to believe that rent is 'dead money' (everyone in my family is a homeowner in Europe) so I rent a studio apartment for 10,000 baht a month, which I found is about the minimum you need to spend for something 'nice and homely'. The apartment building is only five years old, the staff are great, and it's not too far from the school.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I generally walk the kilometre to work unless it's raining or ridiculously hot, in which case I'll jump in a taxi for 50 baht. That doesn't happen very often though. Throw in the odd weekend skytrain ride or cab fare and this expense barely breaks a thousand a month.

Utility bills

The air-con is always on when I'm at home (and through the night) I simply couldn't survive without it. So the electricity bill can be as much as 3,000 baht a month. I think water is around 500 baht (yes, I get ripped off on that I know)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is an expense I find very difficult to keep under about 15,000 baht a month if you throw in supermarket purchases and all those 7-11 impulse buys. Even though I'm a single guy living alone, I can spend 300 baht a day on food easily and even more at the weekends. That's 10K plus right there.

I'm a somewhat finicky eater when it comes to Thai food so that doesn't help either. I could save a bit by eating school lunches for free but the sight of it genuinely turns my stomach. So I have to seek out a local restaurant and lunch can run me 100-150 baht. It's nice to have a break from the school though in the middle of the day.

Nightlife and drinking

I go out probably three nights a week, nothing excessive but maybe three or four beers with friends. Sometimes I would merely class it as 'after work drinks' when a colleague will utter those fateful words 'fancy a quick one?' This expense is probably another 12-15K a month easily.

Books, computers

I don't really bother with books and computers, I'm more of a Netflix guy.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living?

65,000 baht a month is a strange salary. It's neither here nor there. Yes, you are far better off than the numerous teachers in the 30-40K bracket (or at least you should be) but you still find yourself having to watch the pennies each month. You start to dream about what it would be like to earn 100K plus or those big international school salaries. I guess I'll just never be satisfied.

I've just booked a flight back home for August because I haven't seen my family since Covid came along and that's cost an arm and a leg. There are always expenses around every corner and they can eat into a 65K salary, let me tell you.

I used to hang around with a couple of guys who were here on expat packages with oil companies. That's a very dangerous game to get sucked into if they're ordering bottles of craft beer at 250 baht a pop and imported prime steaks. One of my biggest pieces of advice would be 'if you're going to hang out, hang out with your own kind'

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

In Bangkok? Seriously? Nothing instantly springs to mind. It's as expensive as any other major city in my book. OK, maybe accommodation is reasonable.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I'd consider my standard of living as a couple of levels above simply 'surviving' but I wouldn't want to do Bangkok on less than 50K. No way! In fact, I don't know how those teachers earning less than 35K actually manage. It must be so tough. I managed it five years ago but this city feels at least 50% more expensive than those good old days.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Cedric. You made me chuckle with that bit about 'hanging out with your own kind'. Back in the early 90s, I was earning around 28,000 baht a month as a teacher (and believe me that wasn't a bad salary at the time) I used to play snooker once a week with one of those expat salary fat cats - a lovely guy from Scotland. While we enjoyed a session on the green baize, his personal driver would wait for him in the car park. The rent on his apartment was three times my salary. One night we went for a couple of beers after our snooker and I told him how much I earned. His jaw almost hit the floor. He genuinely had no idea that some teachers were working for such a pitiful amount. We sadly drifted apart as 'snooker buddies' soon after, purely because we were opposite ends of the expat social scale. Perhaps we both just started to feel a little uneasy about the situation.  

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here. 


Martin

Working in Near Seoul, South Korea

Monthly Earnings 124,000-140,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I have a permanent position with the public sector in Korea that pays around 125,000 baht a month, plus I do freelance assignments (when I get them) that can net me just a few thousand to 27,643 baht or more.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I'm not saving money at all because I have a family with a special needs child. I'm also short sometimes per month.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a what they call a villa and I started off by putting a big lump sum down that required no rent. As the sum went up over the years, I opted to pay the difference in rent. So I put down 1,935,068 baht and pay 4,146 in monthly rent.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I pay around 1,935 baht for the subway and bus, plus a few taxi rides.

Utility bills

Korea has winter, so my gas bill can be as high as 7,000 baht when it's cold and far less at 1,100 baht in summer. Electricity is OK, as I pay around 1,200 baht except in summer, when it can get higher because of the humidity.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We usually get groceries online and I spend a fair amount of money on them, around 30,000-40,000 baht since I have a wife and child. We also eat out and that can be costly in Korea, though bargains are there.

Nightlife and drinking

I occasionally hang with people but don't really go out as I spend most of my free time with my family, so this cost is negligible.

Books, computers

I stopped buying books given the big backlog I have, and I pay around 1,100 baht a month for uber-fast broadband that Korea is famous for.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Honestly, I'm just getting by and seeking more methods of earning money. Inflation in Korea is bad and I'm worried about my future.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

I'd say public transit and bargain places to eat, if you know where to look. Oh, and the health care system is good and not going to ruin you financially if you get sick.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

If you're single with no dependents, a salary of 70,000 baht is the minimum. I have heard of people who live on less but that would be really scrimping and not enjoying life. I don't teach English but Korea has drastically waned as an ESL destination despite the boom in Korean content worldwide, and you must be a native speaker of English from one of seven designated countries to teach English here.

Phil's analysis and comment

No disrespect but I'm not really sure what value a cost of living survey brings to the party when the person is not a teacher, either in Thailand or further afield. However, your comments on foreign teacher salaries and the current job market in South Korea are interesting.  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 391 total

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